Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm Farming and I Grow It.

Some of you may have already seen or heard of this video that is going viral. We live in Kansas so I wanted to share it anyway. I actually have not heard of the song it is a parody of but it's cute and it can be used to help kids learn that the stuff from the store actually comes from a farm.  Gess really likes it anyway, so here it is.  Hope you enjoy!


When I'm up at seven, the sunrise gives me a glimpse of heaven
I get right to work, a farmer's life can be a little berserk yeah
This is how I roll, I feed the cattle till their stomachs are full
Treat em right, that's my belief,
What's for dinner? I say beef!

Gotta feed Everybody
Gotta Feed Everybody
Gotta Feed Everybody
(Uh-Huh) I work out (side!)

When I step to the bunk (yeah)
This is what I see (Uh-huh)
All the hungry cattle are staring at me

I got passion for my plants and I ain't afraid to show it show it show it show it
I'm farming and I grow it

When I'm in my tractor, I got more power than an arc reactor
And when I'm in the field, I try to raise crops to maximum yield
This is how I roll, without me the world would be outta control
The hours I work, there is no equal
Gotta feed the mouths of hungry people

Gotta Feed Everybody
Gotta Feed Everybody
Gotta Feed Everybody
(Uh-Huh) I work out (side!)

When I step to the bunk (yeah)
This is what I see (Uh-huh)
All the hungry cattle are staring at me

I got passion for my plants and I ain't afraid to show it show it show it show it

I'm farming and I grow it

Water, water, water, water, water
Water, water, water, water, water
Water, water, water, water, water

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inclusive Summer Sports Camps

When you think of Summer Camping you usually think of tents, sleeping bags, campfires and mosquitoes.  But that is not the only kind of camping people do in the summer.  Sports camps are very popular, especially for athletic kids, but don't think those are the only kids who should go.  Sports camps are a good way to introduce your child to new experiences and get them exercising, even if they are not that good at the game.  From basketball and baseball to football, soccer and more you can find a sport camp that your kid might love. 
Some camps are overnight and some are day camps in your local community.  Some are expensive and some not so much.  You need to shop around and see what is out there in your area and what your kid might be interested in.  There is also a new trend that I am really excited about.  Many churches are now offering free sport camps to the local area and include some bible lessons as well as sports training.  They emphasize good sportsmanship and taking care of the whole person, both physically and spiritually.  So why not see if there is a church in your area hosting a sports camp and if not, why not see if your church will host one?

Having a daughter with special needs, I never thought sports camp would be something she would experience, but boy was I wrong!  We live a couple of hours away from Kansas City and so I follow their Down syndrome guild on Facebook to keep up with things going on in our area when I came across a flyer that advertised a FREE football camp for children with Down Syndrome.  It was a one day event from 1-4.  I was excited, but thought, Gess is a girl, maybe they will not let her go.  It turns out I was wrong again!  They said they love it when the girls get out there with them so I signed her up and planned on making the drive.

It turns out this was not a camp specifically for our children, what they did was include our children into the week long day camp that was already going on.  This was so fun!

When we arrived they had her change into her camp shirt and get her water bottle filled up.  Then coach Stoner came and introduced himself and said, "if it's alright with you I am going to take her on out there."  I said "sure, go ahead!"  And off she went!  Each child with Down syndrome had a coach that accompanied them out on the field and helped them as they participated with the teams.  Gess pretty much stayed with the 2nd-3rd grade teams for most of the day, though there were a few times she got some one on one training.

They started off doing their exercise or warm up drills or whatever they call it.  

The entire camp was doing those together.  Gess really caught on and obeyed her coaches well.  They then split into stations by grades.  They focused on kicking, punting, throwing and tackling.  Here is Gess working on punting and kicking.

Throwing she had a hard time with, at least with one hand.  But she could catch it!

Oh and tackling.  Just watch this kid!

As you can see, Gess had the time of her life. She absolutely loved playing football!  She definitely was spent by the end of 2 hours.  That's OK because that's when it was time to cool off.  Smoothie anyone?

Then, while the kids were cooling down in the shade with their delicious Smoothie King drinks, some famous football players came to talk with them!  And after they were done they went around and signed everyone's camp shirt! 

First up was Dustin Colquitt.  He's the punter for the Kansas City Chiefs and has spent his entire pro career as a Chief after being drafted in 2005.  He talked about the importance of listening to parents and coaches and doing well in school.  He took time for questions from the kids too.   

Next up was Will Shields.  He was an offensive guard for the KC Chiefs for 14 years until he retired from the sport. He also spent his entire pro career with the Chiefs.  He spoke to the kids about the importance of eating right and exercising.

The Kansas City Chiefs are actually very active in raising awareness for Down syndrome through their First Downs for Down Syndrome program, which is part of what this camp was all about. We want to thank the Kansas City Chiefs for all their hard work.  We also want to thank those who work hard for FDFDS and  the FCCJC who actually hosted and put on the camp.  It was a day that we will cherish always and we certainly plan on attending again!  And thanks to Coach Stoner who may not know just how much spending those 3 hours with one little girl meant to us all!

Want to read more about Summer Camping?  Then hop aboard the Schoolhouse Review Blog Cruise and see what camping adventures my crew mates have in store.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Hands On Learning About Slavery in Kansas

Earlier this week I told you about our trip to Civil War Days that was an event full of reenactments and other events dedicated to the Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War.  One of those items was The North Star Express and I have to tell you this was a very humbling experience.

The North Star Express is a museum-on-wheels.  What they do is put displays and interactive activities on a bus and then bring the "museum" to wherever you are.  This was open to everyone all day and it was absolutely free to experience it!  "This two section museum brings to life the history of slavery in Kansas with the use of hands-on interactive and audio-visual technologies."

And boy did it bring it to life!  For such a small thing, it can really have an impact on how you understand slavery!  This is especially important for Gess who I don't think gets the fact that people can treat other people in such an awful way.  That's one of the mixed blessings of having a daughter with special needs.  She seems to love and trust so openly.  I love that about her and yet it's frightening because that trust can easily be manipulated by those who seek to do harm.  Every time we have studied slavery I just don't think she gets it, however, this hands on experience has certainly helped!

The first half of the bus focused on slavery.  Here Gess is beating a drum like an African might have played.  The poster on the wall beside her shows the back of a slave badly beaten and behind her hangs the whips and chains that were used to do so.

She then got a closer look at those whips and chains.  Can you imagine being chained up like that?  Feel that whip, wouldn't it hurt your back?

The second half of the bus focused on the Underground Railroad and other ways that people helped to get slaves to freedom. At the back of the bus was a gentleman that provided a very real interactive event that gave us pause.  We were not really sure if Gess would like this one or not, but she did!  Have you ever heard of Henry "Box" Brown?  After the sale of his wife and children he decided to try to escape to freedom by mailing himself in a box to a place where slavery was illegal.  With the help of some friends he made a crate and was placed inside of it with only a skin of water and 2 biscuits!  It took about 24 hours to make the trip.  Here is a poster explaining who Henry "Box" Brown was.

 Could you imagine what it would be like to be in a crate like that for that long?  Well, OK, just think about what it would be like to be in the crate at all.  Oh wait, you don't have to wonder!  Why not see for yourself?  See this crate.  It's not empty!

I wonder what it's in it, don't you?  We asked the gentleman protecting it.  He told us it was bibles and not to worry about the crate.  He would say something similar to anyone who asked.  "This crate is not significant at all."

Then he announced that we were in Philadelphia and we could now open the crate. Wait, that doesn't look like bibles to me!

Wow!  It was a person!  Now when we ask could you imagine doing it for 24 hours it means a whole lot more.  I was impressed that Gess did it and was not even scared.  He limited the children to 2 minutes but for Gess we did it for 1.  She did great!  There were a few other interactive items and displays that shared more history.  It really was amazing and we are thankful to have experienced it.

We have since went to the library and done some more reading on slavery.  I was thrilled to have found this book!

It's a great children's book explaining the story of Henry "Box" Brown. It tells how he grew up in slavery, got married, lost his family and then mailed himself to freedom.  This book means a whole lot more now that Gess spent some time in a box too! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Civil War Days - A Time Traveling Field Trip

Field Trips involving history are always fun, but there is nothing more fun than actually traveling back to the past and experiencing the history as it happens!  That's exactly what we did for our first summer field trip.

 Civil War Days takes place in Humboldt Kansas about every 3 years in the month of June and this was our second time attending.  This Civil War Days event is not about the Civil War in general but rather is focused on the Civil War that took place after the Kansas Territory was opened in 1854.  This war is often referred to as the Border Wars or Bleeding Kansas.

You see, Pro-slave Missourians wanted to expand slavery in the new Kansas Territory but Free State Kansans did not want slavery so they began to battle it out and it got rather nasty.  Many abolitionists including John Brown came to fight to keep Kansas a free state.  Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri Bushwhackers battled and crossed state lines raiding towns and burning communities on both sides.

In Southeast Kansas the principle Confederate raider was Captain John Matthews, a long time Kansas resident.  He thought his brother-in-law Samuel Gilmore (a Union sympathizer) had taken goods from his trading post and was selling them in Humboldt.  Looking for his goods and for escaped slaves who had been known to find refuge there, Captain John Matthews along with his friend Captain Livingstone and Stand Waite, leader of the Cherokee Confederates, led a raid against Humboldt on September 8, 1861. That was the very day that we arrived!

It was a beautiful morning and the folks in the town were going about their business.   Families were shopping at the General Store.

 Wounded soldiers who had come home were finding rest.

 And kids were playing.

All of a sudden there was a big commotion!  We heard shouting, and gun fire!  Look!  Soldiers!

Captain John Matthews was accusing the residents of having his stolen property. 

The women and children were terribly frightened!

 Taking advantage of the women and children while their husbands were away Captain Matthews shouted orders for his men to take everything!  They stole livestock, liquor, money, jewelry and anything else they wanted.

I will jump ahead in time and tell you a bit more of the story.  Humboldt did get their revenge on the raiders.  200 cavalry from Fort Scott pursued them and 10 days later they captured and killed Captain Matthews.  However, on October 14th 1861 about 350 Confederate forces burned the town of Humboldt displacing 40 families and destroying residences and businesses.  It's a good thing we didn't witness that on our trip!  I told you it got nasty.  That's one reason why these border wars were also called Bleeding Kansas.  How sad.

The raid by Missouri Bushwhackers was only one of the reenactments that day and there were also speeches by John Brown and President Lincoln himself!  While we didn't listen to those (Gess is not a fan of passionate speeches) we did get to meet John Brown. (While we didn't get to meet President Lincoln this time, Gess had met him three years ago.)

Gess was so excited after the reenactment she spent the rest of the day pretending to be a soldier.  She was talking through her teeth trying to so hard to sound manly and grown up.  She even called me her wife a couple of times.  It was so funny!  Here she is spending some quality time with her brothers in arms.

She also wanted to check out the town.  She was most curious about the jail so she went and spent a few minutes behind bars.

Then she spent a little time at the saloon.  I was a bit worried as to why she was there, but maybe she was looking for work.  During the reenactment they did mention a little girl who made money for her family by washing their towels.

Oh and check this out!  Look at what my daughter is doing and where she is doing it!

That's right.  She is sitting in front of the telegraph office pretending to talk on the phone!  My husband first pointed that out to me and I quickly snapped the picture.  We then explained to Gess what a telegraph office was and how if she lived during the Civil War Days she would have to send a telegraph instead of talk on the phone.  There she is noticing the sign as daddy explained it to her.  What an absolutely cute lesson!

Oh and here she is with daddy.  Note the amount of stars on the flag and that Gess is saluting like a soldier.

This was just a small part of our time travel through history.  In fact, the next section I want to share about was so amazing that I want to save it for a blog all on it's own.  The North Star Express was a unique hands on interactive museum on wheels that focused on both the life of slavery and the opposition to it by abolitionists and the Under-ground Railroad in Kansas.  It was amazing so be sure to check my blog post about it to learn more!

Planning field trips around historical events, rather than just places can be really fun and summer time is a great time to do that.  Keep your eye out for these events in your community.  Seeing a reenactment was also one of the 101 things that Gess needs to do before she's 12.  You see for Gess' 9th Birthday she got this book titled 101 things you gotta do before you're 12.  It was a really cool gift and got Gess doing some things we would never have thought to do before, like eat flowers!  There are lots of summer field trip ideas in there as well. 

Taking your summer vacation and making a field trip out of it gives a whole new dimension to summer!  What cool field trips are you doing this summer?  Have some tips on what to do and where to go?  Please share!  Want to read more about summer field trips?  Then stop by the Schoolhouse Blog Cruise!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: IXL Math

Having a child excel in math is every parent's wish come true, but it's not every parent's reality, especially those of us who have kids with special needs.  IXL is there to help by offering students a focused learning environment that rewards hard work, encourages students to learn from their mistakes and is free from gimmicks and distractions.

For the purpose of our review I received a  six-month subscription to IXL which includes access to all of their content, and let me tell you, they have a lot!  They currently offer math for Pre-K to 8th Grade plus Algebra which includes over 2,000 skills.  They also have such a wide variety of problems that your child is not likely to encounter the same problem twice.  When your child gets the answer wrong, it not only shows them what the correct answer is, it even gives an explanation specific to the problem your child had just encountered. 

IXL also has what I believe every great practice site needs, tons of reports and information to help parents track the progress, successes and struggles your child may be facing.  Let me show you some of the highlights and share with you how it worked for us.

 When the student logs on to IXL they are taken to the practice page where the student has access to every level of math skills.  That's right, your student is not limited to only what their current grade level requires.  Every child can practice math on various levels.  As a mother of a daughter with special needs I really love that because math is one of those subjects where Gess is all over the board.  While she can successfully do some things in her current grade level, there are other areas she can not do at all.  Having access to the entire scope of math is really great for students like that.

While the sections are originally divided by grades they do have an option in the settings that allow you to hide the grade levels.  This is really nice for struggling students who, like my Gess, would not want to click a grade level other than the one they know they are in.

Here are the options for sorting your practice page.  The default is divided by grades and looks like this.

But we have clicked on the setting that says, "hide grade level" so our screen looks like this.

Another option they offer in the settings is to allow you to hide the timer.  This way if you have a child who is going to stress over seeing that timer, turn it off.  However, if you have a child that needs that challenge and reminder to move quickly, simply turn it on. It's your choice!  By turning the timer off you are simply removing the ability of the child to see the timer, but it will still be timing their activity. That way you as the parent will still know how long it took them to perform each specific task and how much time they spent overall.

Then finally, they also offer the ability to turn the skill menu off or on during the practice session.  This comes in handy for a couple of reasons.  One is it just cleans the screen up from further distraction to keep the child visually focused on the problem.  It also helps to keep them on the task.  Gess has a habit of quiting a skill if she finds it too difficult and having the ability to choose that menu from the practice page made the idea of giving up that much easier for her.  When I turned this off I found that she remained engaged a little bit more. Again, for students that are not struggling they may like the menu there to offer them somewhere to jump to quickly when they complete their current task.  With these options we get to choose which works best for our kids and I absolutely love that!

Here is the screen with the menu on:

And here it is with it turned off.  See how much cleaner the screen looks?  This is the option we chose.

Now that they have the children working on their math skills, IXL strives to keep them there by encouraging them to "hunt" for the many awards that await them.

Children earn medals for answering so many problems correctly and after they reach a smart score of 100 they get a gold medal!  For those who know how much Gess loves trying to win the gold medal at Special Olympics, will know she is going to love earning these too.  And look, she has some!

Each child has an Awards tab on their screen where they may check their progress at any time. When they click there they see that they have more than just medals.  They get different prizes for various achievements.  This is where the treasure hunt begins.  Each new skill offers new awards and "treasures."  Here are some examples of what the various award screens look like. 

I would often find Gess on that page searching for her latest treasure too.  Here she is discovering that she got one for mastering 5 skills.  It was a viper, how cool!

We found using IXL was a pretty fun way to practice some of the basic math skills.  There were times when I adapted it to Gess' needs and allowed her to use some helps.  Here is Gess using a 100s chart to both add and subtract.

Oh, and I can't forget to tell you about the IXL parent user account, which is what I loved most about it.  The reports they offer are just incredible.  Just look at the contents of all the different reports you have access to!

And here is an example of just a couple of the charts that measure your child's progress.

Because of these reports I know how long Gess practices, not just overall, but in each individual skill as well.  I know what she has mastered, what she struggles in, what she needs more practice in and what she hasn't covered at all.  I know exactly how long it took her do each skill and how much she has improved along the way.  You can even see how your child is doing in correlation to your state's standards. Anything you want to know is there.  If you want they will even email you reports so you don't always have to log in to see how they are doing.  And when your child reaches a milestone they will email you a certificate to print off too!  (You can also access the certificate through the News Flashes section of the Reports page.)  In just one month Gess has been awarded 6 different certificates!  Here's an example of one below.

Unfortunately having all these tools and incentives to work towards did not make doing math any easier  or fun for Gess.  However, while I still may have to nudge her to do it, having that "gold medal" to dangle in front of her sure helps.  It really is handy to have a way to let her practice without me standing over her and yet be able to see how she did (or if she even tried) later.  At least with IXL I know that she is actually practicing math in a friendly and easy to focus environment.

Pricing for IXL family memberships is $9.95/month or $79/year. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year.  Membership benefits include:
  • Complete coverage of math curriculum from pre-K to algebra. Your kids won't miss a thing!
  • Unlimited questions in over 2,000 skills.
  • Fun and colorful practice formats.
  • Questions that adapt to your child's ability, increasing in difficulty as they improve.
  • Immediate feedback and question-specific explanations to solidify understanding of each concept.
  • Audio for all pre-K through first-grade skills.
  • Weekly e-mail updates on your child's progress.
  • Informative, detailed reports pointing out successes and trouble spots.
  • Awards and certificates for you and your children to print out as they reach important milestones.

To learn more visit the IXL website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a 6 month subscription to IXL for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the program in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change


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